U.S. EPA settles with City of San Juan Bautista, Calif. over wastewater violations; City commits to major infrastructure improvements
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a settlement agreement with the City of San Juan Bautista over violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The settlement requires the City to make major updates to the way it treats wastewater after EPA found the City was discharging wastewater into San Juan Creek, a tributary to the San Benito River. The EPA inspection found that the discharges violated federal standards. This action was referred to EPA for enforcement by California’s State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Boards). EPA works closely with the Water Boards to ensure the protection of water bodies in California.
“The upgrades at the San Juan Bautista wastewater treatment plant will be critical to protecting public health and water quality of the San Benito River watershed," said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Partnering with the Water Boards, we are pleased to work with the City of San Juan Bautista to achieve these improvements to the City’s wastewater operations.”
“The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board fully supports EPA’s efforts to bring the City into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements to ensure the protection of water quality and the environment,” said the Assistant Executive Officer for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Thea Tryon.
EPA and the Water Boards inspected the treatment plant in June 2019 and found multiple violations of the Clean Water Act. Those violations included discharges of pollutants—primarily chlorides and sodium—in excess of its permit, failure to properly monitor and maintain records, and failure to adequately operate and maintain its wastewater treatment system.
EPA and the City of San Juan Bautista, in consultation with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, agreed to a settlement that requires the City undertake a process to plan and implement capital improvements to return the wastewater treatment plant to compliance. The City will propose a compliance plan subject to EPA’s review and approval, and then develop and implement a schedule to complete the work, with continual oversight by EPA.
The settlement requires the City to complete all work in the plan and return to compliance with the Clean Water Act by December 31, 2023. The treatment system currently has the capacity to treat approximately half a million gallons per day of wastewater generated by a population of about 2,500 and three vegetable processors.
This settlement furthers EPA’s national compliance initiative to reduce significant noncompliance and improve surface water quality by assuring dischargers comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements. For more information on this initiative, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-significant-non-compliance-national-pollutant.
For more information on NPDES permits, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/npdes-permits-epas-pacific-southwest